In his new book Tyler Florence Fresh, Chef Tyler Florence of Wayfare Tavern demonstrates a few techniques that can take raw ingredients to an elevated, restaurant-worthy level.
“The point is knowing that cooking is evolving,” says Florence. “We live in a post-molecular world, and I think that’s a good thing. Modern cooking is about extracting the soul of ingredients, and techniques like sous vide have gotten chefs one step closer to that. If you want to go there — and by that I mean trying some of the more advanced techniques in the book — you will be blown away. I promise.”
Keep reading to learn how to recreate some of Florence’s favorite new flavors and presentations at home.
When making pickles, Florence aims to preserve a vegetable’s color and texture. Since traditional methods of applying heat tend to take a way some of the crunch, he uses a system of vacuum compression instead. Vacuum compression uses a bag and vacuum sealer to remove the air surrounding fruits or vegetables. That way, they can easily absorb whatever flavored liquid is in the bag with them — no heat required.
Confit usually brings to mind classic duck confit, or duck cooked slowly in its own fat. In general, confit refers to preserving foods in fat, and it can be applied to vegetables — though the process is slightly different. As Florence explains, a protein confit focuses on depth of flavor, while a vegetable one achieves a perfectly tender texture and intensified flavor. Root vegetables are perfect for this technique, as they can be cooked — or “melted” — very slowly.
Most of us are familiar with roasting, but Florence has mastered the technique. First, he starts out with a thick cut with plenty of marbling, making sure it’s completely dry and at room temperature. Next, the sear: he seasons with salt, gets the pan nice and hot, adds oil and carefully lays the meat in the pan. He turns it often to speed up the browning process, then moves the whole pan to a preheated 325-degree F oven. Finally, when the meat is done, it has to rest to retain its moisture before being sliced and finished with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
“Spherification” refers to a molecular gastonomy technique in which a liquid forms into a sphere held by a thin gel membrane, and it’s a cornerstone of contemporary restaurant cooking. Florence demonstrates how to recreate a similar effect at home with just a few ingredients. To create balsamic pearls, he boils the vinegar with agar agar powder (an extract of seaweed), then cooled it 125 degrees F. He then chills olive oil to 38 degrees F in a narrow container at least 12 inches tall. Using a squeeze bottle or plastic syringe, he squeezes the balsamic mixture into the olive oil one drop at a time. Suspended in the olive oil, the pearls can last months in the refrigerator.
If experimental techniques and presentations aren’t for you, there’s still much to learn from Florence’s flavor combinations and finished dishes. “Some of the restaurant techniques in Fresh are there not to stump you, but to expose you to new ideas,” he says. “Balsamic pearls can be substituted with just a simple balsamic dressing, and the sous vide chicken breast is just as delicious pan-roasted.”
Learn more creative methods and ideas from Tyler Florence Fresh, available in Williams-Sonoma stores.